From Third World to First: Singapore and the Asian Economic Boom Paperback – 20 Feb 2011
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About the Author
Lee Kuan Yew was born in Singapore on September 16, 1923, a third-generation descendant of immigrants from China's Guangdong Province. He read law at Cambridge University, England. In 1954 he formed the People's Action Party, which won the first Singapore general election five years later. Lee became the country's first prime minister in 1959, at the age of thirty-five. In November 1990 he resigned the office to assume the post of senior minister in the Singapore cabinet.
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If only most world leaders had/have the pragmatic wisdom of Lee, many countries in this troubled world would fare better and more peacefully. Lee created a state of benign (such as it is) authoritanism, which might, perhaps, be preferable in many places to militant anarchy, corruption and terrorism, if not downright civil war and sectarian strife, which are all too common in this world.
I am rather sure that what has been achieved, and how, in Lee's Singapore, in some ways has had a profound influence on the development in China since 1979, and for that matter in some of the neighbouring countries as well. (Even though nobody will admit it, of course). Lee's legacy is far greater than what is usually acknowledged, and this book describes, in plain language, what is behind that legacy and how is has been achieved. What Lee and Singapore have done and achieved in the last 50 years is astounding, and without parallel in modern world history. Like it or not.
At times, reading the book you can see the limits of his arguments. He points out that alternative centres of power besides the Government (e.g. the press) are self-interested and will often make things hard for a reformist government, without giving proper credit to their genuine ability to check a corrupt or simply tired and incompetent government. The defence is that the Singaporean Government wasn't tired or corrupt but, of course, you cannot establish a society on the basis that your leaders will be (and continue to be) the right people, you plan for the wrong people being in and avoiding them being in too long. But still, the idea that a press that sees corruption everywhere might remove the political rewards for not being corrupt is powerful.
In other cases, he makes an argument that at first seems wild but then becomes more and more plausible when you think about it, like that the Vietnam War, for all its faults, bought time for the Asian Tigers to strengthen their societies and then boom into prosperity. That's an enormous upside with implications for billions of people. It is a powerful example of how little we understand the implications (good and bad) of foreign interventions.
I cite those two examples to illustrate how I think this book should be read: as a source of stimulation to challenge your own thinking. The structure, around issues rather than purely linear, makes that easier. A vital read.
Gives you an idea of how can you reach from zero to 100 in a flash if you are determined to leave Socialism behind and adopt free market economic strategies